Classical chemotherapeutic anti-cancer treatments induce cell death through DNA damage by taking advantage of the proliferative behaviour of cancer cells. The more recent approach of targeted therapy (usually protein-targeted) has led to many treatments that are currently available or are under development, all of which are designed to strike at the critical driving forces of cancer cells. The interaction of the cancer cells with their microenvironment is one of these fundamental features of neoplasms that could be targeted in such cancer treatments. Haematological and solid tumour cells interact with their microenvironment through membrane chemokine receptors and their corresponding ligands, which are expressed in the tumour microenvironment. Important representatives of this system are the chemokine ligand CXCL12 and its receptor chemokine receptor 4 (CXCR4). This interaction can be disrupted by CXCR4 antagonists, and this concept is being used clinically to harvest haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells from bone marrow. CXCR4 and CXCL12 also have roles in tumour growth and metastasis, and more recently their roles in cancer cell-tumour microenvironment interaction and angiogenesis have been studied. Our review focuses on these roles and summarises strategies for treating cancer by disrupting this interaction with special emphasis on the CXCR4/CXCL12 axis. Finally, we discuss ongoing clinical trials with several classes of CXCR4 inhibitors, and their potential additive value for patients with a (therapy resistant) malignancy by sensitising cancer cells to conventional therapy.
Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.